Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dear Neighbor,

I get it. You are very emotional people. Who, from what I have surmised after 21 years of living on the same street as you, do not get along very well. You tend to get into loud fights, usually when I am trying to go to sleep. It's okay though. You have emotions to get out in the form of "SCREAM-I-CAN'T-UNDERSTAND!!!!" and "FOUR-LETTER-WORD!!!". Because I see no end to these fights on the horizon, I have some suggestions:
  1. Please have these fights in your front yard. If you are going to insist on waking me up, I would like to be able to hear what exactly it is you are shouting. Its hard to discern when you are in the back of the house.
  2. Provide background information. Why are you mad? Why should I care? What do I, the listener/occasional viewer need to know for this story to make sense?
  3. Always have fights between the hours of 10 pm and 3 am. Your neighbors are just sleeping. Its not like we need sleep to be productive members of society or anything.
  4. If you are going to ignore #3 and fight during the day, please be sure to use as many curse words as possible while the elementary school students are walking home. They really need the vocab lesson (it is a public school after all.)
  5. Really get into the fights. Use props. Beat each other with chairs, trash cans, or one of your many loud, untrained, obnoxious dogs.
I think that by following these 5 simple tips, not only will your fights be more entertaining when they wake me up they will also be more productive if you really get into #5. It'll be survival of the fittest.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to shout them at 2:37 in the morning in my direction.


I don't know about my neighbors, but when I get upset, I tend to reach for something sweet to eat. (Bet you were wondering how I was going to tie this into food.) I would like to suggest that next time they feel the urge to fight, they make cookies. I just made a batch of Peanut Butter Snicker cookies, and I think that these cookies could solve problems. I'm not suggesting they could solve all the world's problems but they are definitely cheaper than seeing a shrink.

Once again there are no pictures because I have no camera and they were all devoured (or frozen) within .5 seconds of being made. These can take some time to make (more than chocolate chip, less than anything involving royal icing), but the results are well worth it. Peanut butter, chocolate and caramel? Yes please.

Peanut Butter Snicker Cookies

1 peanut butter cookie dough recipe (I used the Joy of Cooking recipe which I would post but I really don't want to get out of bed to get the book. And people have strong opinions on peanut butter cookies. Use your favorite recipe.)

2 bags bite size Snickers

  • Unwrap the Snickers. (I cut the top off all the wrappers then go back and just pop the candy out)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Make peanut butter cookie dough but DO NOT BAKE... yet.
  • Scoop 1.5 to 2 tbsp of cookie dough into your hand. Smoosh (technical term) the snickers into the dough and completely cover the candy. Roll around till it resembles a smooth roundish shape. (The candy needs to be thoroughly covered or caramel and nougat escape from their peanut buttery prison and make a big hard to clean up mess.)
  • Bake on rack in the middle of the oven for 9-11 minutes. The number of cookies you put on a sheet depends on how much your dough spreads. Mine doesn't spread so I can usually fit between 12 and 16.
  • Cool on cookie sheet for at least 10 minutes before eating unless you want 350 degree caramel stuck to the roof of your mouth. (Note: there is a reason it has been referred to as culinary napalm. It's hot. It sticks. And it burns. Just don't do it.)
Final note: These can be made in advance and frozen. Stop just before baking. Place the raw cookies on them on a wax paper covered cookie sheet (not touching each other) and freeze. In a ziploc bag they should last about 3 months. Bake without defrosting and up the time to 14-15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Delicious Little Love Bites

I wore a sweatshirt all day today. This might not sound like a feat or anything, but here in Southern California it is. I have been waiting for the weather to cool off. I've missed wearing sweatshirts and jackets and um.... well that's about as cold as it gets. But what I've missed most is being able to turn on the oven without having to turn on the AC too or being able to have something on the stove. I'm done making seasonally inappropriate foods in summer. Bring on the casseroles, stews, and roasts!

Today, in honor of wearing my sweatshirt, I made a dish I have been wanting to make for quite awhile. Now that I've made them, I don't know why it took me so long. Unlike their Italian counterparts, French gnocchi are made using pate au choux. They are quick, don't need to be rolled out, and are surprisingly light. The recipe said to use a round tip which I couldn't find so I used a star tip.

Except the plastic bad didn't want to cooperate and after going through 3 bads I just decided to f%^* the tip. Hence there are about ten that aren't like the others. Next time I would skip the tip completely.

To go with my delicious little love bites (their new name), I made a mushroom cream sauce using cream (surprise!), mixed dried mushrooms (cheaper than fresh! and bought at Costco!) and my very favorite ingredient to use with cream and mushrooms... Cognac.

I know everyone has a secret ingredient they pair with cream... Nutmeg! White pepper! uh... other stuff. I think Cognac needs to be on that list. I made lobster thermador with mushrooms and cognac for Father's Day and since then I've been hooked. The cognac adds the same kind of warmth a spice like cinnamon has, but without over-powering the dish. It's luxurious.

French Gnocchi with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Gnocchi dough from Becks & Posh

Basic Gnocchi (aka Delicious Little Love Bites) Recipe:
1 2/3 cups of whole milk
6 oz or 1.5 sticks of unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups of all purpose (plain) flour
4 or 5 eggs

- Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and put them to one side.
- Measure and sift the flour into a jug or other container suitable for quick pouring.
- Have a wooden spoon at the ready.- Read through all the instructions before you start this recipe.
- In a heavy saucepan gently heat the milk, butter and salt until the butter is melted and then bring to the boil.
- Take the pan off the heat and immediately pour all the flour at once into the milk and start beating all the ingredients together vigorously with the wooden spoon.
- After about a minute the dough will come away from the sides of the pan and form a ball of sorts. When that happens you can stop beating.
- If you have an electric mixer then put the ball of dough into the bowl of the mixer and leave it to cool for five minutes. If you don't have a mixer, a wooden spoon will suffice, tranfer the dough to a mixing bowl and rest those biceps for five minutes.
- Whilst the dough is cooling, fill a large pan with water, salt it well and bring it to the boil.
- Back to the dough. Adding one egg at a time, beat thoroughly to fully incorporate each one into the dough before adding the next one. Four eggs should be enough, but if you find that your dough is still very stiff and dry then beat in the extra egg.
- The next stage is to transfer your dough into a piping bag with a large, plain nozzle. It is easier to work in batches. I split the P√Ęte a Choux into three batches when working with this amount of dough.
- Adjust the pan of water to a gently rolling boil. Have a pair of scissors ready. In one hand hold the the piping bag and as you pipe the dough into the water, quickly snip them off into pillow shapes. The water will splash so if you have heat sensitive hands it might be an idea to wear protective gloves.
- The gnocchi take about five minutes to cook and will be ready when they float to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon and lay them out to dry on the baking trays. Repeat the process for the remaining batches of dough.
- Liberally season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Mushroom Cream Sauce

3 tbsp butter
2 cups mixed dried mushrooms (or fresh. your choice)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 glugs cognac (maybe just under 1/4 cup) (also technically optional but not really)
1 1/2 cups cups heavy cream
salt and pepper
Parmasean Cheese

Soak mushrooms in hot water until soft. Roughly chop. (Skip if using fresh mushrooms).

Melt butter in skillet over medium high heat. Saute until golden brown. Turn stove down to medium low. Add garlic and cook until softened.

Add the Cognac
(Seriously, don't skip it. It's delicious). Flambe if its dark and you want to show off.

Add cream and reduce until thick-ish. The little love bite will soak up a lot of the sauce so it should look like there will be too much. Don't forget to season.

Combine love bites (fine the gnocchi) with the mushroom sauce and put into a casserole type dish. Cover with cheese and bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Switch to broiler and make that cheese all golden brown and delicious.